Bon Appétit…what is on offer for the French cuisine in Dubai?
French cuisine had a bit of a bad rap for a while. People considered it fussy and over priced. The wine always carried a hefty price tag and the food quality didn’t always meet expectations.
However, this clearly was a blip on the French culinary scene. French food is back in the UAE with renewed verve and it is both modern and classic.
Now, many people will know the traditional French options, Foie Gras and Duck a l’orange. However, there really is so much more to offer. So from starters all the way through to the cheese course here are my favourite dishes.
Obviously a small paragraph is barely enough space to go into French wine. Due to the widely ranging French landscapes they have always stayed in the top positions for their wines. Wine in Dubai can be incredibly pricey and when you are at some of the more expensive places it can be a bit of a shock to the system, especially for those out on a date and looking to impress.
I personally recommend heading over to Couqley in JLT. Apart from its great location the best thing about this restaurant is the fact that it sells carafes of wines. For those of you who don’t know, a carafe is a ½ litre jug of a wine, usually much more affordable and a very popular way to enjoy wine in France. They offer a wide selection of different wines, including a particularly tasty Côtes du Rhône red wine from Chemin des Papes, an area producing some of the most delicious and heady reds in France. A great start to your French spread.
For me the best part of French cooking has to be l’entrée or the starter, there are so many tasty little delights. I am lover of foie gras though for some it may not appeal. Perhaps they may have tasted bad quality paté and this might have put them off, however, when creamy and perfectly seasoned, with a strong meaty taste accompanied by a thin slice of toast, foie gras is seriously, melt in your mouth delicious.
St Tropez at the Mall of the Emirates also serves up a Duck Rillette. If you are a meat lover then I recommend this small pot of slowly stewed duck in duck fat. This may not be the healthiest option, but it is packed with flavour, nothing else really needs to be added as the natural flavour of the meat speaks for itself.
Le Plat Principal
You may have noticed that French food tends to be heavy on the meat…which it does tend to be, however, if you are not a meat fan then French fish is a must try. The most simple and delicious has to be a slowly steamed Dover sole cooked in butter with salt and pepper. Yet again allowing for the natural taste and delicacy of the fish to win you over.
When trying to find a good French restaurant in Dubai do your research. There are many places which are just looking to sell you Faux French and charge you a lot of money. However, a truly good restaurant will sell you on its produce. Fresh vegetables, responsibly sourced meats and unique cheeses from specific regions, if the chef can talk with passion, then you know you have found somewhere special.
For me, the place to go is Traiteur in the Park Hyatt, situated on the Dubai Creek; it has hints of the South of France. I will admit, this is not the cheapest restaurant, however, it is one of the best. It prides itself on the quality of its ingredients and the attention with which they cook. The dishes are classy and sophisticated. Think Black Hake and a mussel chowder and wild salmon with Japanese mayonnaise, classic with a modern twist. Their brunch is also well respected, offering a hog roast and whole lobsters. It is even worth paying the little extra for the champagne package, maybe good for Christmas or a special anniversary.
When judging French produce make sure you look for the Appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC stamp, this is a designation of the region and process of the specific cheese. This is a symbol of quality, so you know the cheese you are eating is recognised in France as being a superior and quality product.
Cheese platters can sometimes be a little underwhelming, with a rather yawn inducing selection of cheese and under ripe Brie. I think this is a great way to judge a restaurant. If they are proud of their cheese selection it is a great indicator of their general attitude to their food. Jones the Grocer at the Dusit Thani Hotel has its own cheese room! Yes, a whole room dedicated to cheese, when you try their wine and cheese evening they will supply you with a diverse and interesting selection to test your palate. I have never been disappointed or bored there and have been given everything from strong blue cheeses to an unusual smoked fromage. A great way to round off a delicious meal!